Understanding Pennsylvania Law on Protection from Abuse, Sexual Violence and Intimidation
This guide breaks down the requirements and applicably of Pennsylvania's two protection laws, the Protection from Abuse Act and the Protection from Sexual Violence and Intimidation Act.
Which Act Applies?Wondering which Act applies to your situation? That depends on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. The first step is to find out if you and the parties qualify as "family or household members." These persons include: a current or former spouse; a person who lives (or lived) with the other person as a partner; a brother or sister; a parent or child; an extended family member (through blood or marriage); a current or former sexual or intimate partner (even if they've never lived with you); or someone with whom you have a child.
Protection from AbuseIf one of the noted categories looks familiar, the next question is whether the perpetrator has committed an act defined by the PFA Act as "abuse." Abuse is defined as: Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon; Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury; The infliction of false imprisonment under Pennsylvania law; Physically or sexually abusing minor children; or Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. Whether a PFA will be granted either temporarily or for up to three years depends upon the strength of the evidence presented in an attempt to show that one of the acts above occurred.
Protection from Sexual Violence and IntimidationSometimes a party seeking protection from sexual abuse won't qualify as a "family or household member" under the PFA Act. In those cases, the Pennsylvania Legislature developed the PSVI Act. The PSVI Act uses the same definition for "family or household members" as the PFA Act. However, the PSVI Act says that the party seeking protection must not be a family or household member in order to qualify. The PSVI Act is not meant to include as many forms of conduct as the PFA Act. Rather, it is limited to instances of conduct that, if proven, are so appalling that a victim doesn't need to have a prior relationship with the perpetrator in order to be protected. The PSVI Act actually permits two different types of protection orders: Protection from Sexual Violence ("PSV") and Protection from Sexual Intimidation ("PSI"). Assuming a victim is not a family or household member of the perpetrator, they can seek a PSV Order if the alleged perpetrator committed an act of "Sexual Violence." Sexual Violence under the PSVI Act is defined as conduct constituting a crime under any of the following provisions: Most Sexual Offenses [18 Pa.C.S. Ch. 31]; Endangering the Welfare of Children, if the offense involved sexual contact with the victim [18 Pa.C.S. ? 4304]; Corruption of minors that is sexual [18 Pa.C.S. ? 6301(a)(1)(ii)]; Sexual Abuse of Children [18 Pa.C.S. ? 6312(b)]; Unlawful Contact with a Minor [18 Pa.C.S. ? 6318]; and Sexual Exploitation of Children [18 Pa.C.S. ? 6320]. Where none of the acts above has occurred, but the victim is less than 18 years of age and the perpetrator is 18 years of age or older, the victim may still seek a PSI Order, if the perpetrator has performed an act of "Intimidation." Intimidation under the PSVI Act is defined as conduct constituting a crime under either of the following provisions: Harassment that is sexual [18 Pa.C.S. ? 2709(a)(4), (5), (6) or (7)]; or Stalking [18 Pa.C.S. ? 2709.1].
A Person Accused under the PFA or PSVI Acts Needs an AttorneyThe actions giving rise to all of the above protection orders are not tolerable in our society. However, the undeserved entrance of any of these orders can have so many dire consequences for the alleged perpetrator that it is almost impossible to list every one of them here. If you are accused of an act that may put you under one the two laws above, you should seek representation immediately.